“B’edaya has had a big impact on my life; it makes me feel that I’m not a burden on my kids, and I’m able to manage my household finances and prepare for my daughter’s marriage.”
When Shereen, a budding small businesswoman and micro-loan recipient, said these words to our staff, what stood out was her mention of preparing for her daughter’s marriage.
As we look ahead to launching a new round of micro-loans in March though our B’edaya microfinance initiative, I’m struck by how Shereen’s words show that just a bit of capital can change the life of a female entrepreneur. Her family members also feel the positive impact, with potentially life-changing results.
Her observation particularly sticks in my mind because, with economic hardships rising sharply in Egypt, Coptic Orphans field staff have noticed a serious increase in young girls being married off early. They usually end up in that situation because families – particularly those without male heads of household, whom this project serves – can’t cope with feeding “extra” mouths.
Early marriage, as anyone who’s familiar with it knows, can devastate the life of a child. The repercussions for a girl’s health, education, economic security, and happiness can be impossible to overcome.
As just one example of early marriage’s traumatic outcomes, a 2014 study by the American University in Cairo’s Social Research Center, in partnership with the Ford Foundation, found that 27% of women who were married before they turned 18 had been physically abused by their husbands.
So the ability to prepare for a daughter’s marriage, as Shereen points to with pride, is hugely important.
Widowed mothers who are able to start or build up their small business with micro-loans are able to do something that’s almost impossible without financial stability: prepare for the future. In Shereen’s case, that translates into being able to get ready for her daughter’s marriage, rather than being pushed headlong into arrangements that her whole family may later regret.
These are the kinds of results we count on from the micro-loans. As important as they are to filling stomachs with food and bank accounts with savings, the biggest changes often become apparent over time. The girl who doesn’t get forced into early marriage, the mother who feels her own self-worth — those are the real payoffs.
We’ve had fantastic applications for the upcoming round of this project, and we plan to disburse these 0% interest micro-loans to coincide with Mothers Day and International Women’s Day in March. I look forward to sharing details of some of the new business projects we’ll be supporting in the months ahead.
For now, we’re grateful for your support, and we continue to count on it to achieve the results Shereen speaks of. We believe in mothers who can prepare for the future, and in freeing young girls from early marriage!